No development without human rights

Rohingya children playing with a doll at a refugee camp in Bangladesh.
The SDC gives high priority to protecting the rights of vulnerable groups such as the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. © Anna Dubuis / DFID

Sustainable development is only possible if fundamental human rights principles such as non-discrimination, participation, and the rule of law are respected. These rights form the basis of international cooperation. This is why the promotion of human rights is a key issue for the SDC.

SDC focus

The realization of human rights is a foreign policy objective anchored in the Federal Constitution. Swiss human rights foreign policy focuses on the following three priorities:

  • The protection and promotion of civil and political rights, for example access to justice free of discrimination and participation in political processes
  • The protection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to education or health
  • The protection of the rights of especially vulnerable groups.

The SDC contributes to the implementation of the human rights policy by promoting the rights of the poor and supporting governments in their efforts to respect, protect and promote these rights. SDC's programmes on fighting poverty actively promote human rights.

Working with the human rights approach

The SDC works with a human-rights-based approach. In addition to international standards, which give legitimacy to development cooperation, the SDC promotes the following human rights principles:

  • Equal rights and non-discrimination
  • Participation and support in asserting human rights (empowerment)
  • Responsibility for human rights violations, accountability and redress
  • Indivisibility and universality.

The SDC undertakes to systematically include questions of rights, for example in the fields of migration or labour law, in its programmes in all its partner countries. It uses a human rights approach to help people ("rights holders") to exercise and demand their rights. At the same time, it assists state and non-state institutions ("duty bearers") in their efforts to adhere to their obligation to ensure respect for and the protection of human rights.

Strengthening state institutions and promoting the rights of vulnerable groups

Fragility, armed conflicts and human rights violations – which tend to become mutually reinforcing like in a vicious cycle – hinder the fight against poverty. In most cases, fragile states cannot guarantee basic services, including protection against human rights violations. For this reason, the SDC helps its partner countries strengthen their state structures, thus enabling them to better fulfil their human rights obligations.

In Tajikistan, for example, the SDC supports reforms to strengthen rights-assistance services, the main beneficiaries of which are women whose husbands have gone to other countries to work. In Albania, with the assistance of the SDC, a comprehensive and sustainable social-protection system has been put in place to improve the social integration of the Roma community. In Bolivia, the SDC supports the national ombudsman's office for human rights, and seeks to address the concerns of the indigenous populations. In Afghanistan, the SDC assists women's organisations, and in Honduras it helps protect human rights defenders.

With these projects, the SDC promotes the rights of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, strengthens civil society and promotes the establishment of state institutions.

Examining states' human rights commitment

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the most important human rights conventions of the United Nations together form a broad-based regulatory framework for international human rights protection. One of the strengths of this frame of reference is its universality: human rights are valid worldwide. The majority of states have ratified the most important human rights conventions. Nevertheless, many states do not adhere to their obligations.

For this reason, the UN has set up a number of monitoring mechanisms. In the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN member states are obliged to report regularly on their current domestic human rights situation. Through the UPR, civil society now has a voice at the international level and can reach the general public. The SDC supports these efforts. For example, it has enabled Pakistani journalists to express their positions on the Pakistani government's state report. In Afghanistan, it supports the justice ministry in implementing the UN's recommendations.

Current projects

Object 13 – 24 of 59

Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture (OMCT)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2025

L’intervention a pour objectifs de renforcer la responsabilisation des acteurs publics pour les violations des droits humains et de contribuer à la réforme de l’environnement institutionnel pour prévenir la torture et réduire l’impunité en Tunisie. Elle offre une assistance directe aux victimes et promeut une meilleure conduite professionnelle des forces sécuritaires et carcérales. L’OMCT travaille aussi en lien étroit avec la société civile pour mener des plaidoyers communs contre la torture et l’impunité des responsables.


United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2023

Switzerland renews its contribution to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) for 2021-2023 in the context of its support to a peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict in the east of the country. The presence and impartial work of the Mission on both sides of the line of contact and with regard to Crimea is important to enable dialogue for human rights issues, to prevent violations of human rights, and to contribute to increasing accountability of duty bearers.


Civil Society Support in Bosnia and Herzegovina

01.12.2020 - 31.05.2027

Citizens will increase their influence on policy making through their active engagement with civil society organisations. Through improvement of their know-how on civic participation and engagement in civil society alliances, civil society organisations will effectively participate in democratic processes, demand reforms from the authorities, and contribute to social change in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They will increasingly act as advocates for democratic reforms, gender equality, human rights and social inclusion rather than as service providers.


OHCHR - Strategic Partnership with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

16.11.2020 - 31.12.2023

Promoting respect for human rights is a foreign policy goal and pillar of Swiss international cooperation, as the denial of human rights is one of the main factors of poverty. With a multi-year contribution to the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, focussing on selected geographic and thematic priorities, SDC will support this organisation to better play its key role in integrating human rights in sustainable development.


Support the juvenile justice system in Egypt

01.11.2020 - 31.10.2023

A more independent, impartial, and efficient judiciary is a prerequisite for the current protection of citizens. The juvenile justice system is one avenue where there is both a demonstrated need for engagement and government acceptance. Capitalising on OECD framework agreement with Egypt on rule of law, the proposed intervention will lead to enhanced sector specific governance practices and contribute in increasing trust with government stakeholders.


PSPET - Programme de soutien au processus électoral en Tunisie

01.11.2020 - 31.12.2024

L’intervention contribue au renforcement de la bonne gouvernance des autorités électorales et à leur résilience pendant les périodes de crise. Elle veille également à assurer l’inclusion des différentes couches de la société dans la participation électorale et politique, à travers des approches innovantes et durables, ainsi que par la diffusion auprès des citoyen.ne.s tunisien.ne.s d’une information électorale fiable et sensible au genre. Le programme sera mis en œuvre par le PNUD et l’IFES.


Governing Health Futures 2030 Youth Network

01.10.2020 - 30.06.2023

Stronger governance of digital technology, data and artificial intelligence is required to maximise the benefits – and mitigate the risks – of health in a digital age for the next generation. To date, young people’s needs and perspectives have been largely overlooked in the design, application and governance of digital health and data. Through this proposal, Switzerland will support greater youth involvement in governing health futures.


Combating Gender-Based Violence in Mongolia

Let's understand and respect each others campaign

01.08.2020 - 31.07.2023

Aiming at sustainable change of behaviour and mental disposition, the 2nd phase of this project seeks to protect the victims of Gender-based Violence (GBV), women/girls and men/boys, and to mitigate the root causes of violence. This follow-up phase focuses on the consolidation and institutionalization of GBV prevention and response mechanism. The project is in line with Mongolia’s and Switzerland’s commitment to combat GBV and gender inequalities.


GBVPR - Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response Project

01.07.2020 - 30.06.2024

With its longstanding experience in promoting psychosocial support services and a strong engagement in support of federal state building, Switzerland is well positioned to engage on reducing all forms of GBV and discrimination against women in Nepal. The project aims at strengthening and institutionalizing a coordinated, survivor-centred response for GBV victims, addressing root causes and engaging with all government levels for a more gender equitable policy environment. 


Human Rights in Food Systems

01.06.2020 - 31.12.2025

Realizing the right to food and nutrition is critical for food systems transformation. Building on Switzerland’s strong engagement for human rights-based approaches, the project addresses hunger’s structural causes by ensuring that rights-holders such as small-scale farmers, women and youth can claim their food system-related rights and participate in governance mechanisms, and by supporting duty bearers in the effective implementation of instruments in 14 countries and globally.


Life Without Violence

01.06.2020 - 31.12.2022

The project aims to contribute to reduce domestic violence, which is experienced by 70% of women in Bolivia, be it psychological, physical, sexual or economic. Good practices (in prevention and support) from the previous phase will be replicated and scaled up. Evidence-based advocacy at the policy level aims to improve procedures and the implementation of laws in an integral response model involving central and local state institutions and civil society. In addition, the project provides a comprehensive response towards combating the impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence.


PAEG - Programme d’Appui à l’Egalité du Genre

01.06.2020 - 30.06.2026

Se basant sur son engagement de longue haleine en faveur de l’égalité du genre au Bénin, la Suisse entend soutenir l’Etat béninois dans la mise en œuvre effective des lois et politiques visant à réduire la vulnérabilité socio-économique de sa population féminine. En jouissant pleinement de leurs droits, les femmes béninoises joueront un rôle plus actif dans le développement de leur pays et contribueront au renforcement de la paix et de la cohésion sociale.

Object 13 – 24 of 59